Sufficing With a Woman’s Adhan

One of the popular rulings within Islamic law is that if a woman gives the adhan, it does not suffice for a man who is a stranger to her, and most have also opined that this is true even if the man who hears the adhan is related to her (i.e. she is his maram). Amongst the classical scholars, the only exception we find is Shaykh Tusi who writes in his al-Mabsut1 that if a woman does happen to give the adhan for men, they can follow it and subsequently give the iqamah themselves:

و ليس على النساء أذان و لا إقامة فإن فعلن كان لهن فيه الثواب غير أنهن لا يرفعن أصواتهن بحيث يسمعن الرجال، و  إن أذنت المرأة للرجال جاز لهم أن يعتدوا به و يقيموا لأنه لا مانع منه

Muḥaqqiq Ḥillī (d. 676 AH) believes being a male is a condition2 for the adhān and iqāmah, and if a woman gives the adhān for a group of women – even if she prays individually – only then does her adhān suffice. In his al-Mu‘tabar fi Sharh al-Mukhtasar he says it is allowed for a woman to give the adhan for women and only they can follow her in it. Essentially all later jurists hold the same opinion, until Sayyid ‘Ali Tabataba’i who believes a woman can give the adhan for her male blood-relatives only, but not strangers3 and Muhaqqiq Isfahani in Kashf al-Litham4 also has the same opinion.

Ironically, the one jurist who offers a conflict opinion is Sahib al-‘Urwah. In his work, he says there is no difference between the adhan of a man and a woman, unless listening to the voice of one another is done in a prohibited manner (for example, if done out of lust).5 All the commentators on al-‘Urwah disagreed with Sayyid Yazdi on this ruling. Imam Khumayni says there is room for thought on this verdict, Aqa Khwansari says there is a problem in this verdict, and Aqa Dhiya also believes there is a problem with this ruling and there is no sufficient evidence for it. Kashif al-Ghita says there is a problem because the narrations indicate only a man’s adhan suffices, even though he does not believe a woman’s voice is ‘awrah. Mirza Na’ini says precaution is better here and a man should not suffice with a woman’s adhan. Likewise, Ayatullah Borujerdi and Sayyid al-Hakim both believe there is an issue with this ruling. Sayyid Khu’i says not only is there a problem with this ruling, but rather there is a prohibition. Sayyid Gulpaygani, Aal Yasin, Shari’atmadari and Ayatullah Montazeri were also all jurists who disagreed with the opinion of Sahib al-‘Urwah.

As can be seen, none of the aforementioned, and in fact no other commentator, agreed with Sahib al-Urwah’s verdict, all either believing it does not suffice, or they do precaution.6 On the contrary, Muhammad Husayn Kashif al-Ghita says there is no requirement for the adhan to be given by a man, and a woman’s adhan suffices, even though precaution is better.7 Rida Hamadani – who does not believe a woman’s voice is ‘awrah – in his Misbah al-Faqih8 separates the adhan into two: 1) one that is a public call; and 2) one that is done for just the salat on a smaller level. The first adhan which is a public call is prohibited because it is “obviously” against modesty and chastity that is preferred in a woman. The woman’s adhan does not suffice in the second type either because of a principle, which is that one’s responsibility in worship is not dropped when someone else performs it, unless with evidence. The evidence at hand here suggests that the adhan suffices when the Imam of the prayer gives it, or if other men give it, but nothing indicates that a woman’s adhan suffices for a man’s.

All in all, the opinions and arguments of 45 jurists were looked at, and besides one or two exceptions, all jurists, up until contemporary jurists such as Sayyid Sistani, maintain the position that a woman’s adhan does not suffice for a man, not even for maḥram men as per obligatory precaution.

The main arguments that are used by jurists for this position are: 1) Narrations, 2) Voice of a woman being an ‘awrah (this was used by many classical jurists), 3) Worship is prescriptive and we have nothing on this matter, and 4) Argumentum a fortiori (al-qiyas al-awlawiyyah).

Throughout the works of different jurists, I found around 11 narrations being used. Let us look at all of them:

Hadith #1

مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَحْيَى عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ أَحْمَدَ عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ الْحَسَنِ بْنِ عَلِيٍّ عَنْ عَمْرِو بْنِ سَعِيدٍ عَنْ مُصَدِّقِ بْنِ صَدَقَةَ عَنْ عَمَّارٍ السَّابَاطِيِّ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع قَالَ: سُئِلَ عَنِ الْأَذَانِ هَلْ يَجُوزُ أَنْ يَكُونَ مِنْ‏ غَيْرِ عَارِفٍ‏ قَالَ لَا يَسْتَقِيمُ الْأَذَانُ وَ لَا يَجُوزُ أَنْ يُؤَذِّنَ بِهِ إِلَّا رَجُلٌ مُسْلِمٌ عَارِفٌ‏ فَإِنْ عَلِمَ الْأَذَانَ فَأَذَّنَ بِهِ وَ إِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ عَارِفاً لَمْ يُجْزِ أَذَانُهُ وَ لَا إِقَامَتُهُ وَ لَا يُقْتَدَى بِهِ وَ سُئِلَ عَنِ الرَّجُلِ يُؤَذِّنُ وَ يُقِيمُ لِيُصَلِّيَ وَحْدَهُ فَيَجِي‏ءُ رَجُلٌ آخَرُ فَيَقُولُ لَهُ نُصَلِّي جَمَاعَةً فَهَلْ يَجُوزُ أَنْ يُصَلِّيَا بِذَلِكَ الْأَذَانِ وَ الْإِقَامَةِ قَالَ لَا وَ لَكِنْ يُؤَذِّنُ وَ يُقِيمُ.

‘Ammar says the Imam (a) was asked if it is allowed for the adhan to be given by a person who is not ‘arif, and the Imam says the adhan can only be given by a Muslim man who is an ‘arif. The term ‘arif refers to someone who is an Imami Shi’a, but the keyword in this narration is rajul (man). In other words, the Imam (a) says the adhan of only someone who is a rajulun muslimun ‘arifun suffices.

Hadith #2

ما رواه الشيخ في الصحيح عن عبد الله بن سنان قال: «سألت أبا عبد الله (عليه السلام) عن المرأة تؤذن للصلاة فقال حسن ان فعلت و ان لم تفعل أجزأها أن تكبر و ان تشهد ان لا إله إلا الله و ان محمدا رسول الله صلى الله عليه و آله».

In this narration, Abdullah b. Sinan asks the Imam if a woman has to give the adhan and the Imam (a) says it is better if she does, but if she just says the takbir, and testifies to the oneness of Allah and prophethood of Muhammad, that suffices for her. However, there is nothing explicit in this narration about whether her adhan suffices for a man, be it her blood relatives or otherwise. 

Hadith #3

و عن زرارة في الصحيح قال: «قلت لأبي عبد الله (عليه السلام) النساء عليهن أذان‌؟ فقال إذا شهدت الشهادتين فحسبها».

Zurarah asks the Imam (a) whether it is obligatory upon women to recite the adhan and the Imam (a) says if she gives the two testimonies, it suffices. Once again, this narration has nothing to do with whether her adhan suffices for men.

Hadith #4

و عن جميل بن دراج في الصحيح قال: «سألت أبا عبد الله (عليه السلام) عن المرأة أ عليها أذان و اقامة‌؟ فقال لا»

Jamil b. Darraj says I asked whether it is obligatory on a woman to give the adhan and iqamah, to which the Imam (a) responds no. In other words, this narration also has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

Hadith #5

و عن ابي مريم الأنصاري في الصحيح قال: «سمعت أبا عبد الله (عليه السلام) يقول إقامة المرأة ان تكبر و تشهد ان لا إله إلا الله و ان محمد عبده و رسوله صلى الله عليه و آله».

This narration is similar to the previous ones, and only describes what is sufficient for a woman to say in her Iqamah.

Hadith #6

و روى الصدوق في الفقيه مرسلا قال: «قال الصادق (عليه السلام) ليس على المرأة أذان و لا إقامة إذا سمعت أذان القبيلة و تكفيها الشهادتان و لكن إذا أذنت و أقامت فهو أفضل».

In this mursal narration of Shaykh Saduq, Imam Sadiq (a) says it is not necessary for a woman to give the adhan or iqamah, and has nothing to do with if she does happen to give the adhan, whether it suffices for men or not.

Hadith #7

قال «و قال الصادق (عليه السلام) ليس على النساء أذان و لا اقامة. و لا جمعة و لا جماعة.

Similar to the previous narration, it is a mursal narration of Shaykh Saduq, in which the Imam (a) says it is not necessary for a woman to give the adhan, iqamah, nor go to Jumu’ah prayers, and nor participate in the congregational prayer (i.e. there is no encouragement for her to go to the mosque to participate in them, like the men are encouraged).

Hadith #8

حَمَّادِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو وَ أَنَسِ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ عَنْ أَبِيهِ عَنْ جَعْفَرِ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ عَنْ آبَائِهِ فِي وَصِيَّةِ النَّبِيِّ ص لِعَلِيٍّ ع قَالَ لَيْسَ عَلَى الْمَرْأَةِ أَذَانٌ وَ لَا إِقَامَةٌ 

In this will of the Prophet (p) to Imam ‘Ali (a), the Prophet says it is not necessary for women to give the adhan or iqamah. It also has nothing to do with our subject of discussion.

Hadith #9

و روى في كتاب العلل في الصحيح عن زرارة بن أعين عن ابي جعفر (عليه السلام) قال: «قلت له المرأة عليها أذان و اقامة‌؟ فقال ان كانت سمعت أذان القبيلة فليس عليها أكثر من الشهادتين فان الله تبارك و تعالى قال للرجال أَقِيمُوا الصَّلاٰةَ‌ و قال للنساء وَ أَقِمْنَ‌ الصَّلاٰةَ‌ وَ آتِينَ‌ الزَّكٰاةَ‌ وَ أَطِعْنَ‌ اللّٰهَ‌ وَ رَسُولَهُ‌».

This narration is similar to hadith #6, and is not related to our discussion.

Hadith #10

و روى في كتاب الخصال في ما اوصى به النبي (صلى الله عليه و آله) عليا (عليه السلام) «يا علي ليس على النساء جمعة و لا جماعة و لا أذان و لا اقامة».

This narration is similar to hadith #8 and #7.

Hadith #11

و روى فيه بسنده عن جابر الجعفي عن ابي عبد الله (عليه السلام) قال: «ليس على النساء أذان و لا اقامة».

This narration from Imam Sadiq (a) is similar to #7.

Not all of these narrations were used by jurists. Some were used by some, while others were used by others, while a few did not use any narrations at all and focused more on other arguments. Regardless, from the 11 narrations above, only the first hadith – a reliable tradition – concerns the topic. It says that the adhan can only be given by a “Muslim man” who is an ‘arif (a reference to an Imami Shi’a). The specific mention of the word rajul (man) indicates that only a man can give the adhan. This can be argued against by saying that though this statement uses the word “man”, the entire narration is unconcerned with the gender of the one giving the adhan, rather it is about their belief. In other words, the narration emphasizes that the person must be an Imami. Further, the mention of the word “man” is from the perspective of what was commonly practiced at the time, & not from the perspective of limiting the ruling to men. This is similar to other reports when it is said “if a man has a doubt between 2 and 3 rak’at in Salat, it is obligatory to do such & such” where scholars rely on the Principle of al-Ishtiraak (i.e. all rules are equally dictated for men & women unless explicitly proven otherwise) to say women must do the same thing.

Another very common argument that was found in the works of the early jurists was considering the actual voice of a woman. Many classical jurists believed the voice of a woman is ‘awrah which she has to conceal from men, and it is prohibited for her to make her voice heard except in necessary and emergency situations. Likewise, given that the voice of a woman is ‘awrah which has to be concealed like the rest of her body, it is also prohibited for men to listen to her, just like it was prohibited for men to see any other part of her body uncovered. As a result, a man cannot listen to a woman giving the adhan – which is a prohibited act – and consider it sufficient for themselves.

This entire argument was based on the premise that a woman’s voice is ‘awrah, which itself was up for discussion and after a certain point in time, almost no jurist held on to this assumption.

A third argument that was used by a few jurists was that adhan and iqamah are an act of worship, and acts of worship are prescriptive (tawqifi). In other words, each and every step of an act of worship has to be dictated to us by Allah (swt). In this case, since Allah (swt) has not told us that a woman’s adhan suffices for a man, we cannot just assume it without evidence. However, this argument seems rather weak, since what we should be looking for are narrations that make an exception to the rule or narrations which explicitly restrict the adhan to men, to begin with. This is because what we find in most of the narrations are general guidelines regarding the adhan, how to give it, how it suffices for the listeners if one person gives it etc. and even if these narrations are addressing men, the principle of al-Ishtirak allows us to generalize them for men and women and so we assume that the prescription is already given to us. What we need to look for are exceptions to this prescription.

Some jurists who completely rejected the concept of a woman’s adhan sufficing – even for other women – critiqued other jurists who made an exception by saying that a woman’s adhan suffices for other women. They questioned: on what basis is this exception being made? If there is evidence that says the adhan is prescriptive, or that there are narrations which drop the responsibility of the adhan from others only when a man gives it, then where did this exception of women being able to give the adhan for other women come from? The response some jurists gave was through an a fortiori argument. They say that we know with certainty that a woman can lead other women in congregational prayer, so if she can lead women in prayer, she can surely give the adhan for them too.


  1. Vol. 1, pg. 97
  2. Sharā‘i al-Islām, vol. 1, pg. 65; al-Mukhtaṣar al-Nāfi‘, vol. 1, pg. 27
  3. Al-Sharh al-Saghir fi Sharh al-Mukhtasar, vol. 1, pg. 105.
  4. Vol. 1, pg. 207
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  8. همدانی، رضا بن محمد هادی. نور‌الدین جعفریان, و المؤسسة‌ الجعفریة‌ لأحیا‌ء التراث‌. مصحح محمد باقری, و محمد میرزائی, و نورعلی نوری. نويسنده جعفر بن حسن محقق حلی. ، 1376 ه.ش.، مصباح الفقیه، قم – ایران، المؤسسة الجعفرية لاحياء التراث، جلد: ۱۱، صفحه: ۲۳۰